Walk off Christmas dinner with these scenic, local strolls
Christmas is a time for being with loved ones, giving presents and…feeling bloated? Well, yes. All that indulgent food does take its toll!
The worst part of overdoing it is feeling lethargic. Nobody wants to fall asleep on the sofa and miss the nicest time of the year!
So we suggest you go for a stroll instead. You don’t have to go far from the Conwy Valley Railway to find some scenic, easily manageable walks. Breathe in that fresh North Wales air and feel invigorated, brain sharpened again for the evening family games.
So grab yourself a cheap day return ticket for the Conwy Valley line and let’s go for a festive stroll.
Marine Drive around the Great Orme, Llandudno
We challenge you to think of a more spectacular four-mile circular walk in the UK than the Marine Drive around the Great Orme.
The 320 million-year-old limestone cliffs glow in the low winter sun while the sea boils several hundred feet below you. Yes, it’s a public road but there’s footpath all the way round, plenty of benches to stop and rest, and of course – with care – lots of places to explore.
If you’re feeling energetic, hike up to St Tudno’s Church via a side road and take a look round this windswept place of worship. Incredibly, this was Llandudno’s original church and the site of an earlier church built in the sixth century.
Back on Marine Drive, you’ll pass a lighthouse (now a B&B) and a little further on, just tucked into a wall, Ffynnon Gaseg or Mare’s Well. The fountain was built to provide water for horses during the construction of the road.
Turning back towards West Shore you get to enjoy views across to Anglesey, Puffin Island and the Carneddau Mountains of Snowdonia before returning to Llandudno invigorated, refreshed and, dare we say it, tempted for another mince pie?
Llyn Elsi above Betws-y-Coed
You’ll certainly work-off the Christmas excess with this four-mile walk! From the station in the alpine village of Betws-y-Coed, head to the church in the village centre. Walk up either road alongside it and behind the church to find a gate and an information board signalling the start of the walk.
Take a deep breath, because the first section is the steepest. There’s a bench halfway up if you need a break. The stony path eventually flattens and wends its way through the tall conifers of Gwydir Forest before emerging at the still waters of Llyn Elsi. Savour that moment when you arrive at the shore and can see nothing but water, trees and mountains. Beautiful!
Once you’ve explored the viewpoint with its big stone marker, you can choose to walk around the lake clockwise or anticlockwise. If you’re the kind of walker that’s easily lost, wayfinding is slightly clearer if you walk around the lake in an anticlockwise direction. It’s a well-trodden path so you’d have to go wandering off into the woods deliberately to lose your way!
Even at an ambling pace, taking time to enjoy the views, it’s a walk that should take you no more than two hours to complete. Just in time to get back home for the Queen’s Speech.
Hidden Valley, near Dolwyddelan
The Lledr Valley, into which the Conwy Valley line snakes after stopping at Betws-y-Coed, is a quiet place. The line follows the Afon Lledr gorges and waterfalls before reaching the sleepy village of Dolwyddelan, the valley’s only settlement of note. Alight here and there are great walks to discover in all directions.
Our walk actually leaves the Lledr Valley, heading south into Cwm Penamnen. At less than two miles long, this mostly level walk passes a serene riverside picnic spot – food might be the last thing on your mind, though – and the ruins of an ancient settlement. You’ll wander through a forest, discover waterfalls and be extremely unlikely to meet another soul.
From the station car park turn left onto the road then left again over the bridge and immediate left again. Take the forest track on your right and leave the village. Eventually you reach a fork in the path – keep right and continue down towards the river. Turn right again off the main track and down a natural path to the river. Cross the footbridge to the picnic area.
Then turn right onto the surfaced lane, passing the ruins of Tai Penamnen. It’s hard to believe that this was once a large home of Maredudd ab Ieuan, the founder of the powerful Wynn dynasty, who owned much of the land here in 15th century.
Continue along the lane back into the village. Look out for more waterfalls as the river tumbles down towards Dolwyddelan.
Waterfall and Lake Walk, Blaenau Ffestiniog
Tucked away behind Blaenau’s unmistakable slate terraced houses are lakes and waterfalls unknown to many visitors.
From the station, head for the high street and turn right. Now walk about half a mile into Bethania village, past Y Manod pub. Pass a turning on the right with a postbox, then on the left of the road there is a track leading behind the houses to a stile. The stile brings you onto a track where you turn left.
This track swings right and climbs up over Afon Du-Bach waterfall, which is visible from various points on the track. If you’re up for a little off-path exploring, leave the track just before it passes over a stone embankment, to get closer to the waterfall.
The track then turns right and climbs past slate tips to the Llyn Dwr-oer reservoirs. Just before the reservoirs, it turns right again, passing an incline between the reservoirs, then turns left to climb up to the secluded Llyn y Manod lake, the end of this route. Take a break here, you’ve earned it!
Now simply retrace your steps, enjoying the views as you go.